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How To Choose A Therapist


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Peter Strisik, Ph.D.
Suzanne Strisik, Ph.D.
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Finding a psychotherapist that is right for you can be a difficult task, particularly if psychotherapy is new to you.  This page suggests methods of obtaining names of mental health professionals and questions to ask before commiting to a period of psychotherapy.

Obtaining Names

First, gather information. Talk to your doctor and other health professionals.  Many family practitioners work in collaboration with mental health professionals and can often refer you to someone they know and trust.   Consult the department of psychology at a local college or university, local community mental health, or a clergy member.  You could also ask people at your place of worship, family members, and friends who may know of, or have heard about psychotherapists with a good reputation.  The phone book will contain a listing of most of the therapists in your area and may contain some useful information about licensing, specialties, and location.  When obtaining names from the phonebook, it is still a good idea to ask others if they know the professionals that interest you.

Asking Questions

Once you have the name or names of several psychotherapists, ask questions to insure that you will be working with someone that is right for you. 

Examples of questions to ask are:

  • Are you a licensed therapist?

  • How long have you been practicing?

  • What are your areas of speciality (i.e., adults, family therapy, marriage counseling, etc.)?

  • What kind of treatment do you usually use, and why do you feel this would be effective for my situation?

  • How long would you expect my treatment to last?

  • What are your fees?

  • Will you accept my insurance or HMO coverage?

  • Will you directly bill my insurance company?

If you encounter a therapist that is resistant to answering reasonable questions, consider moving on.  Psychotherapy should not be a mystery and the therapist should not hold all the power.

Finalizing Your Decision

Once you've narrowed your choice, it will be important that you feel comfortable with the therapist you choose since your treatment will involve working together as a team.  A good rapport with your therapist is critical.  Choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable.  You may be able to determine this on the telephone, however, the first appointment should be treated as a mutual interview during which both client and therapist decide whether or not a good working relationship is likely to form.

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